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How the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar works

Bye-bye, function keys. The MacBook Pro now has a digital function bar that's actually a dynamic screen. Here's how it works.

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At first, it sounds ludicrous that Apple would trash the function bar -- that top bar of your keyboard that includes Escape, F-Keys and media controls.

Until you see what took its place.

Jason Parker/CNET

The Touch Bar is actually a pencil-thin screen above the keyboard of the new MacBook Pro that changes based on what you're doing. Here's what you need to know.

It changes based on the app you're using

If you're on your desktop, you'll see the row of function keys. But as soon as you switch to a Touch Bar-compatible app, new "keys" will appear. Here are some apps that already work with Touch Bar:

  • Messages (emojis!)
  • Photoshop
  • Quicktime
  • Garage Band
  • Preview
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • Skype for Business
  • Affinity Designer
  • Pixelmator
  • Sketch
  • Davinci Resolve
  • FaceTime
  • Safari
  • Algoriddm

Don't worry -- the Escape key is still there

When these photos leaked, guts across the world wrenched at the thought of losing the beloved escape key. But it looks like it's not going anywhere, after all.

While the Touch Bar changes based on what app you're using, the basic function keys are always a swipe away. So, for example, if you're using a Touch Bar-ready app like Safari and you need to access the escape key, just swipe from right to left, and they'll reappear.

Whew.